By Jill J. Easton
When the worst that can happen if one tries and fails is the same as what will certainly happen by doing nothing, what is there to lose?
Raif Richardson knew the risks of being seen when he threw caution to the wind and, doing his best Quasimodo imitation, began lumbering across the chest-high canola field to intercept a buck that he couldn’t even see.
Not sharking across the yellow sea would be akin to throwing in the towel, and Raif had no intention of doing that without throwing at least one punch.
The buck he very much wanted to punch was the best of the lot that he and his bowhunting pal, Gord, had patterned prior to the opening of Manitoba’s 2009 bow season.
They’d been keeping tabs on several sizeable bucks, one whose rack outclassed all the others. It had long straight tines and lots of mass. The deer was also much heavier than his brethren.
It was a superstar.
Following the fall rains, however, most of the bucks they’d been watching disappeared.
“We didn’t see a single deer on opening day,” Raif said. “And during the first week, there were only a few small deer in all the locations where we’d usually found big bucks.
“Gord and I persisted, even though the mosquitoes were atrocious, because we knew the deer had to be somewhere,” he added.
Late one afternoon in mid-September, Gord and Raif split up to ease along the edge of one of the properties. Each carried a bow in one hand and a lit ThermaCELL in the other.
The gadget seemed to be the only thing that would keep the horde of hungry mosquitoes at bay.
Raif eventually noticed Gord waving and pointing toward the canola field, where deer began popping up from their beds.
“Forty to 50 deer were hiding out in the four-foot-high canola,” Raif said. “The fields were on higher ground, where there were no puddles, so the mosquitoes weren’t as bad.”
Gord, who had the better vantage point, could obviously see something that Raif couldn’t. He was pointing toward a drainage in the huge field.
“I wound up calling the farmer who owns the field and got permission to hunt his land,” Raif said.
Afterward, Raif headed down the drain into the field. For the next few minutes, the two men and the buck were locked in a complex game of chess.
“I was crawling through the canola, bow in one hand, ThermaCELL in the other, and my quiver of arrows on my back,” Raif said. “The buck was about 100 yards ahead of me, and Gord was providing hand signals. I couldn’t see the buck, but I could see Gord.”
All of a sudden, Gord’s signaling became more frantic. He pointed to the south end of the field.
“I risked the chance to stand and saw the buck walking quickly toward the field’s edge,” Raif said. “It was then or never to make a 100-yard, half-squatting run — a hail-Mary attempt to close the distance before it was too late.”
Raif ran through dried mud to the edge of the field just in time to draw as the buck stepped clear of the canola.
“When I was about 45 yards from the buck, Gord gave me a signal,” Raif said. “It was a long shot, but I was used to shooting even greater distances in practice. Plus, I knew the arrow would have the speed to penetrate.”
Raif was shooting an old bow that was slower and had a lot of drop, so he figured that into the quick mental equation of distance, draw and curve of the arrow.
“With the deer 45 yards away and on the other corner of the field, its vitals were covered by canola,” Raif said. “I remembered an old article by Chuck Adams on setting arrow pins. My 20-yard pin was above the canola, so, according to Adams, my arrow would fly clear and on target.”
Since he could see the buck’s back above the wide stretch of canola, he settled the pin on the deer and released.
“The arrow curved as I expected it to,” Raif said. “It was a solid shot. When I heard the thunk, I knew I was going to be the winner.”
Then the buck ran off into the field.
“I turned to face Gord and put my binoculars up,” Raif said. “He was fist-pumping. That confirmed a good vital shot as the deer entered the tree line.”
Raif ran toward Gord on a wave of adrenaline.
“We high-fived and hugged, and then did it all over again,” Raif said. “There is nothing better than having a friend there to share the moment, especially when the hunt was such a team effort.”
After celebrating, they went to look for the deer. Dusk was fast approaching.
Raif stuck an arrow in the mud at first blood. The guys slowly crawled through the golden canola, looking for more sign.
“It took us an hour, going leaf by leaf, to follow the blood trail 100 yards,” Raif said. “It was after 10 p.m. when we finally got up to the buck. Evidently, the 40 to 50 other deer in the huge field just moved quietly out of our way.
“When Gord finally flashed the light ahead and saw the buck 10 yards away, it was a moment I will never forget,” Raif said.
Every inch of the deer was covered with mosquitoes. The guys used their ThermaCELLs to shoo them away from the animal.
Hunter: Raif Richardson
BTR Score: 192 3/8
— Photos Courtesy of Raif Richardson
This article was published in the August 2013 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
Read Recent RACK Articles:
• Unbeknownst: Hunter: Carl Morris Jr. | BTR Score: 205 6/8
• Curtain Call in Missouri: Tim Lurk finally got the proverbial cigar when this 19-pointer came right to his lap on the final day of his 2011 bowhunt in northwestern Missouri.
• Black Thursday: Colton Lowry’s 17-pointer from Norton County is the 30th largest Irregular felled by a rifleman in Kansas.